OAKLAND -- The Rangers showed Cole Hamels the data and information in Spring Training, and it all came down to one thing.His changeup is his best pitch and he shouldn't forget it. On Tuesday night, Hamels got positive reinforcement on what his changeup can do when mixed in with the
OAKLAND -- The Rangers showed Cole Hamels the data and information in Spring Training, and it all came down to one thing.
His changeup is his best pitch and he shouldn't forget it. On Tuesday night, Hamels got positive reinforcement on what his changeup can do when mixed in with the rest of his pitches.
Hamels, making obscure club history with 11 strikeouts, held the Athletics to one run on four hits in pitching the Rangers to a 4-1 victory. Hamels went just five innings after throwing 94 pitches, but three relievers finished the job to snap the Rangers' three-game losing streak.
Alex Claudio pitched two scoreless, Chris Martin worked the eighth and Keone Kela finished it off in the ninth for his first save as the Rangers' official closer.
"We had a really good start from Cole and then we just handed the ball off to each other," Kela said. "Everybody did their thing and I was in position to get the last three outs. We had a good foundation tonight, we had the bats working. You can see how we're developing as a team."
Hamels earned the victory while becoming the first Rangers pitcher to ever strike out 11 batters in a start of five innings or less. Bobby Witt struck out 10 in five innings in 1986 and John Henry Johnson did so in 1979.
The 11 strikeouts were the most ever by Hamels in a start of five innings or less. Hamels is also just the 24th pitcher since the beginning of 1998 to strike out at least 11 batters in a start lasting five or fewer innings.
"Just tried to stick to game plan and stay ahead of guys," Hamels said. "When you go full count on everybody, it's not a good look. Ultimately I have to get to that 100-pitch mark and get deep into the game. At the same time, [catcher Robinson] Chirinos and I had a really good game plan tonight and things were working well."
Hamels did it with an effective combination of his sinker, cut fastball, slider and changeups. Hamels threw 21 changeups and got eight swinging strikes on them (38.1 percent). He only had a higher rate than that with the changeup in one start last season, when he averaged 23.1 percent over 24 starts.
"The changeup was the pitch that had them off-balance all night," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.
"His changeup today was working really well for him," said Athletics outfielder Chad Pinder whose home run accounted for Oakland's only run. "He did a good job of mixing it up. He minimized damage tonight. He did his job, and that's obviously the marker of a good pitcher. He kept us quiet."
Hamels has a vast repertoire of pitches, including multiple fastballs and breaking pitches. He can mix it up with the best of them. But the changeup is the one that the Rangers want to see more of and Tuesday's performance is the reason why.
"That's obviously the pitch that made me who I am," Hamels said. "I just need to make sure I execute it well."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Sticking with Claudio: The Athletics, trailing 4-1, started a one-out rally in the seventh against Rangers reliever Claudio when Jake Smolinski was hit by a pitch and Marcus Semien singled. That put runners on first and second with right-handed hitting PInder at the plate. Pinder had a home run and double earlier in the game and the Rangers had right-hander Martin in the bullpen. But Banister stayed with Claudio and he escaped by getting both Pinder and Jed Lowrie on grounders.
"You bring Martin in there and it's going to be one-plus [innings] for him," Banister said. "We still felt confident with a guy like Claudio who has been in those situations and has been successful."
Gallo hits No. 50: Joey Gallo hit the 50th home run of his career in the third inning, taking a 2-0 sinker over the right-field wall. The home run came in his 204th career game. That makes Gallo the 11th-fastest player by game to reach 50 career home runs. The fastest was Rudy York in 153 games. Gallo is in between two Hall of Famers: Joe DiMaggio hit No. 50 in his 200th game and Frank Robinson did it in his first 213 games.
"It's kind of what I do well, so it's not surprising," Gallo said. "It's cool to be compared with those guys, but I don't think about it too much."
"Especially today … I felt pretty good at the plate. This was the best day I've felt this year. Every day I try to help my team win. Today I actually did something." -- Second baseman Rougned Odor, who was 2-for-4 with a pair of run-scoring singles to snap an 0-for-15 slump
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Hamels is 32-2 over his last 52 starts when receiving three-plus runs of support. He's received at least three runs of support in 210 of his 363 career starts, going 133-18 in those games.
Shortstop Elvis Andrus will lead the Rangers against the Athletics in game three of their four-game series at 9:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday night at the Coliseum. Sean Manaea pitches for Oakland and Andrus is 9-for-18 off him. That is a .500 average, tied for his highest against any opposing pitcher with a minimum of 15 at-bats. Right-hander Doug Fister will pitch for the Rangers and is 8-8 with a 3.28 ERA in 18 career starts against the Athletics.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.